Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen, 1984)


“If you take my advice, you’ll become one of the great balloon-folding acts of all time! Really, ’cause I don’t just see you folding balloons in joints. You listen to me, you’re gonna fold balloons at universities and colleges.”

If it weren’t for Mia Farrow being the lead actress instead of Mariel Hemingway, it might be hard to distinguish between stills of Danny Rose and stills of Manhattan. The former has all of the beauty of the latter, insofar as it portrays New York City equally magnificently in black and white. But Danny Rose fits perfectly into Woody Allen’s body of work in another important way; namely, identity is the issue once again. Not of the Hannah and Her Sisters sort. Allen’s character does not suffer from the existential angst that often provokes his films to look at philosophy and religion in a serious way, as he tries to establish ‘who he is.’ Rather, Danny Rose has identity issues moreso of the Zelig variety. Other people are mistaking him for someone else, and quite a few laughs are created because of it.

Danny Rose works as a personal manager for the worst acts in Manhattan. From birds that play piano to wine-glass players and xylophonists that are blind, he arranges shows for them. All but one of his acts are hopeless. In the form of Lou, an alcoholic tenor, he has a chance to create success, and Danny indeed nurtures Lou, whose growing popularity climaxes in the invitation for a performance at the Waldorf. It turns out Lou has a complicated love-life, however. Despite being married, he is seeing Tina, the feisty Mia Farrow who has had relationships with mafioso that are still desirous of her. When Lou asks Danny to accompany Tina to the Waldorf performance, so suspicions of Lou’s affair with Tina are not raised, the absurdity starts. Danny is calamitously mistaken by the mafia as Tina’s real lover, who has apparently stolen her from some Sicilian big-shot. Hell subsequently breaks loose, as Danny hilariously tries to survive, clear his name, and simultaneously ensure Lou’s high morale by getting Tina to the Waldorf.

This is all told in flashbacks, as a group of had-been comedians nostalgically reminisce over coffee, and find mutual amusement in the scenarios Danny created for himself. Danny Rose isn’t as original or adventurous as Zelig, filmed by Allen a few years earlier, but it nevertheless really is a delightful comedy, that is packed full of the sort of quick wit and one-line humor Allen is famous for. At 80 minutes running time, it never drags, either. Danny Rose is great fun, and as such is everything a Woody Allen movie should be.

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